Standing on the start line in Ofir, I took a moment from trying to control my nerves, to look back at the amazing sight of nearly 400 paddlers lined up at the first official World SurfSki Champs!
I have never felt prouder of the sport that means so much to me. That it is finally getting recognition on the world stage means so much. I could not have been more stoked to be a part of the history making!
I am so thankful that I could be standing there, and taking part!
Andre and his crew of Nelo staff (of course the ever resourceful Marisa included) have gone out of their way to set the benchmark for future editions of this race.
And the benchmark is high!
The only factor they could not control was the weather! Even with a 3 day window, and having the event in a traditionally windy month did not bring forth the kind of conditions everyone was wishing for, but that’s SurfSki paddling!
Unfortunately Dawid Mocke had to have his appendix removed and miss the race he so deserved to be a part of! Rest up Dawid, and see you on the start line next year.
A bit of a chaotic mess of a start, being seeded way on the wrong side meant a hard task of trying to negotiate the tangle of boats and bodies and get across to the seeded paddlers and their clean water start. Alexa and I were just too slow to get across, and I watched Nikki and Michelle hop onto the wave of the freight train that is Teneale Hatton! What a machine, her paddling speed is phenomenal, and I am sure she is going to smash World Sprints this year!
Nonetheless, I turned in 5th position (not in the front like the Twitter feed said – Teneale and I were both in Yellow NeloSki’s which much have caused the confusion) just shy of a minute behind at the 2km turn buoy/hotspot. I tried a slightly deeper/straighter line, while the others went in. It looked like Nikki took the lead with Michelle slightly shallower, and Teneale just behind.
I seemed to be gaining on my line, but as we got closer to the Point, I lost again. I could see Teneale in my range, and just concentrated on what little bumps there were to reel her in. I caught her and then re-assessed, still on a slightly deeper line.
Just before the harbour wall at Povoa da Varim, I saw a bunch of guys come past them, but it seemed only Michelle got on the wash, dropping Nikki. I was excited to at least be back in the medals after turning 5th, and then I realised with 3.5km to go I just might catch Nikki. I had a slightly better line, having checked out how far the final turn buoy was out to sea, I made sure I stayed out for it. I caught Nikki with 200m to go. At that point I presumed Michelle was on the beach, and I was racing for the silver.
To my surprise I saw Michelle being led out to the turn can, but from the far left. She must have missed the final can, what a disaster! I gave it 100% and just got my nose there first. The final push to the beach was excruciating, and I felt like I was running on the spot, but managed to stagger there first!
Definitely not the way I would like to win a World Champs, but when you get given an opportunity in a race like that, you take it with both hands. I am really proud of how the women’s race was so close, the standard is shooting up! (The image above shows how close it was, with Teneale half a minute back.)
I’ve been there before (as we all have), worked really hard to get in front, and someone catches a wave from the back. Or really given it all to get a lead on the Fish, and botched the final weir, only to watch your race disappear in front you, after all your hard work! The bottom line is that a race is from the start line to the finish line, and you have to give it your all for 100% of the distance.
We all make mistakes, and sometimes they are just more costly than others. I am just glad I was in the mix, and close enough to be able to make it work for me.
Well paddled Michelle, it was a heart-breaking mistake!
All I can say is, it’s not over until you cross that finish line, and I feel I paddled really well to come back from such a horrendous beginning!
Next up is mixed doubles with Tim Jacobs! Should be interesting as we have never paddled together before!
Thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for your help and words of encouragement. And a real special thanks to my mom and dad for coming with and being “super seconds”!
Well done to Prawn for winning gold, TJ for his silver and Cory on his bronze!